Monday, 30 September 2013

Times have changed.

Pushchairs, buggies, call them what you will, have changed out of all recognition since my days of pushing one around the streets.   Then it would be a simple, rather rickety affair which folded up quite easily (probably trapping a bit of skin somewhere on your hand in the process) and was light enough to lift up the steps on to the bus and carry to the back and push under your seat.  Hardly ever would you need to buy one new - somebody, some relation, or a neighbour, would have an old one you could have.   And after your toddler was walking well enough to flatly refuse the indignity of going in a pushchair, then you could pass it on to somebody else.

Of course few of us had cars so it was always the bus if we wished to go anywhere.

Now, have you noticed, all these expensive, trendy buggies that are around.   They are almost a status symbol like cars, they are large and rather unwieldy and the complications of folding them down require a degree in ergonomics (do I mean that, I am not altogether sure what they are to be honest).

But the thing that worries me most of all is that nowadays baby is always facing whoever is pushing the buggy.  I suppose it is something to do with making eye contact with baby from an early age, with being able to communicate, being able to reinforce that bond.   But I liked pushchairs when the occupant faced the same way we were going.   Then I could point out things as we passed.

"Here's a big, red bus coming.   Why don't you wave to the driver?"
"Look at that lovely little dog over there on the other side of the road!"
"Look who's coming!   Wave to Daddy."

And my favourite of all time was pushing my Grand-daughter around the streets of Halifax in West Yorkshire while she looked for 'e' in all the street signs.   Her name is Emily and when she was very small she would ask if we could go on a walk and look for the 'e in emily signs'.

Alright, if the child faces the pusher then he or she has permanent 
contact, but if he/she faces forward then how many different people will they meet and make eye contact with?   I think that is a much better idea.   What do you think?

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Sorry about the gap!

Sorry there has been a couple of days gap in posting but yesterday I gave a dinner party for family and friends and I have been getting ready for it and then cooking it.  I still very much enjoy entertaining but as I get older so I get slower and take longer to do things.   However, it all went off well, we had a jolly evening and there is enough food left to feed an army.  Wish I could invite half a dozen of you to eat up the luxury fish pie which has prawns in it and therefore will not be eaten by the farmer.   Sadly I think that after today the hens may finish it off.

Today my two friends P and D have only just left.   The farmer has gone off on his walking day - it is a gloriously sunny early Autumn day with the trees just beginning to burst into flame colours and P,D and I have been out for a lovely drive through the pretty Swaledale countryside to Richmond - only six miles away - for lunch at The Station.

We are so lucky to have this venue.   There is a lovely cafe serving delightful meals, a shop selling artisan bread, a brewers, a sweet shop, two cinemas and an ice cream parlour.  Upstairs there is a gallery for exhibitions of local art.

We all had open sandwiches (cream cheese and smoked salmon on a bed of rocket/ cheese in mayo with walnuts and sultanas - both served with coleslaw on the side.   Coffee to drink and a group (Music Fourum) playing in the background.

When we went into the upstairs gallery to look at the 'art' I took these photographs - thought you might like to see how lucky we are up here in North Yorkshire.

Trifle anyone?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Fancy a TomTato anyone?

Did you see that next year we are going to be able to grow Tomtatos?   Apparently a plant has been developed which will grow cherry tomatoes above ground and white potatoes underground.  The two are related so I suppose it is not that far removed from an idea to develop.

The plants are to cost £14. 99 each and the tomatoes are reputed to be delicious.   I have to say that it is a long time since I had a delicious tomato.   It is only outdoor grown tomatoes which have that beautiful sweet taste and tomatoes only grow outdoors up here in the North if it is an exceptional Summer.   This year I could of course have grown a few, but then I didn't know it was going to be such a lovely Summer did I?

One thing is for sure.   If I tempt fate and buy a couple of plants next year that will ruin any chance of another fine Summer - so does anyone out there who lives further South (or in a warm climate, where they will have no trouble getting tasty tomatoes anyway) fancy having a go with them and forking out the large cost of buying a plant?   If so - they are available from Thompson and Morgan.

On a different note - the farmer opposite is ploughing the big field.   It has been a grass field for many years - so many that the farmer was only a lad when it was ploughed and sown with corn before.   The contours of the land show up so well in the corduroy soil stripes.   Now I am wondering what the crop is going to be.   If it is rape then I think I shall probably have to keep my curtains drawn on sunny days to keep out the bright yellow light.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

British Summer Time

Today it has been misty all day and the sun has never appeared although it is quite mild.   This morning the lawn was covered in beautifully woven fine cobwebs - hundreds of them, spun I guess by very small spiders overnight.   Reminded me of my reason for calling my blog site 'weaverofgrass', here is the poem for anyone who hasn't read it. (written by me, I hasten to add).
In that bright hour
when the sky glows
with the promise of a rising sun;
when the air is cool
and moist,
and dew lies heavy on the ground -
then come the weavers,
threading their strands through the grass
so that at evening,
when the sun is low,
it shines through silken threads
that shimmer in the fading light
and make a field
of gossamer.

It only seems to happen at this time of the year.   The other thing that happens at this time of the year is that the nights begin to get dark very early.   Tonight it was very dark here by seven o'clock.
On October 27th we put the clocks back an hour and it will be dark even earlier.   For those folk who live alone it does make for very long, lonely nights.

I remember during the war when we had Double British Summer Time and the clocks were put forward two hours to give the farmers more time to work in the fields in the daylight.   

Do you think that we should return to this now?   Or should we leave things as they are?  Or should we do away with the idea of British Summer Time altogether?   I would be interested to hear your views.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Finding homes for Winter.

It has been the most beautiful of days here today.   One of those days in early Autumn when the beauty and warmth are almost painful because you know they are coming to an end for another year.  The sun has been out from dawn to dusk and as most of our windows face South, the house is still full of its warmth.

Friend S has let me have a jar of her honey and we are treating ourselves to a spoonful each on our morning porridge.  The label on the jar says 'summer honey' and it sure has the taste of Summer in it.

Creatures are beginning to plan for Winter.   As far as I can see the House Martins and the Swallows have all gone South.   We haven't seen a hedgehog for a night or two, so we assume they are bedding down in our hay barn to sleep away the winter.

The farmer has bought a new field.  It sits amongst his existing fields so it made sense to buy it and add it to the farm.   He is altering the fencing patterns and last week he took down a stretch of wooden paling fencing and piled it up in a neat pile.   This afternoon he gathered the pile up on his tractor to bring it back to the farmyard and as he lifted it, a stoat jumped out and the pile fell apart.   There was evidence inside that the stoat had decided that this was a jolly good place to make a winter home.  Sadly he will now have to find somewhere else near to the rabbits.   There are plenty of stone walls near at hand and that is where they usually live.

I suppose you could say that we are all beginning to batten down the hatches in the same way really.   Wood piles are being stacked up, oil tanks filled, sacks of potatoes bought, crops in our gardens are being harvested before the frost.   Our runner beans showed the first sign of frost on the leaves this morning.   They will stand absolutely no frost whatsoever, so the first real frost kills them off.
Leeks on the other hand really seem to like frost, so as soon as there has been a real sharp frost we shall begin eating them.  Folk pickle and jam and bottle and store up for Winter even though our supermarkets make such things unnecessary.  I think it is an instinct in all of us (dare I say particularly women) to store and make ready.


Sunday, 22 September 2013


And so Autumn is officially upon us.   I suppose, living in the country, each season is much more clearly defined.   The coming of
Spring for me is always that first showing of daffodils, the buds on the Horse Chestnut trees, that green smell in the air.   Summer, perhaps the least possible to define, roses coming into bloom, young fledglings on the lawn, beaks open, being fed by their mothers.
Winter is always 'in your face' with Christmas, fairy lights, all the razzamatazz - but out in the countryside it is personified by the long nights and short days, the bare trees, the robin singing.

But Autumn, for advertising itself, always wins here in the countryside.   Every tree is losing its leaves, slowly but surely.  But - if we are lucky - some Autumns these trees put on a splendid display, a 'swan-song' if you like to tell us 'look, we are going but make no mistake about it, we will be back again next year.'

This Autumn promises to be a good one.   Already the trees are beginning to turn and the berries are ripening - hawthorn, rose-hip, elderberry, rowan.   Our rowan has not lasted long as the blackbirds have stripped away every single berry.   Every crab apple tree in our field hedges - and there are many of them - is laden.   The birds, mainly blue tits, are eating the apples on our orchard trees, but not a single crab apple is being touched.   Later, as they begin to fall onto the grass, the cattle will happily eat them, impervious to the incredible sourness.

We need these clear season boundaries I think.   They define our lives and they bring so many memories with them.   "Do you remember that terrible Winter when we had thick enough ice for skating on the pond?"; "Can you remember that Spring when the daffodils lasted for ever?"; or "That glorious Summer when we swam every day for weeks and weeks."

Maybe our memories play tricks on us.   I'm sure all Winters when I was a child were not icy and snowy.   We couldn't sledge, skate, snowball and build snowmen year after year could we?   It just seems like it.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

No blog for two days!

Where have I been you might ask.   Well on Friday I went with friend W, through Wensleydale and Ribblesdale to Kirby Lonsdale, that pretty little town, to meet our friends P and D for lunch in the Italian restauant.

A wander down to the restaurant looking in lovely shop windows at stuff which we liked but had no intention of buying, then a nice meal (all had chicken - two of the recipes are in the photographs
chicken saltimbocca and spicy chicken - then a wander back to the car park and a shop in the rather nice supermarket there.

We came back a different way, through Sedbergh and then through Cotterdale and back into Wensleydale..   The sun shone for most of the journey, the trees were just beginning to show some Autumn colour and it was a lovely day out.  

I had only been in about five minutes when the phone rang.   It was the chimney sweep to say that he would come this morning at ten o'clock.   So it was an early start at getting both rooms ready (we have two fires).   After he had gone the farmer went into the town and hired a carpet cleaner and this afternoon has been spent cleaning the carpets in both rooms.   I have washed all the ornaments, wiped all the pictures and all the surfaces (in spite of being a very efficient sweep the fine soot gets everywhere).  Now we have both had showers and are about to sit down and watch the news.   The wood burner is burning brightly up a nice clean chimney and I feel quite saintly having done so much housework.   Can't remember when I had a day when I worked so hard.

Back to normal tomorrow I hope. In the meantime, the pictures refuse to upload and I have run out of time.   Sorry.

Thursday, 19 September 2013


First of all in the 'real' sense.   Spurred on by Cro Magnon's similar recipe on his site the other day, I decided to make a really healthy pot-au-feu of my own invention for lunch today.   It elicited a "very nice" from the farmer, which is praise indeed - so try it sometime.

I cubed in fairly large chunks - 2 large carrots, 1 large parsnip, 1 large potato, 1 large onion, 1 large turnip (white).   I added vegetable stock (made with a cube) to cover and cooked it in the oven for three quarters of an hour until the vegetables were cooked. Then I took it out of the oven and added - 1 chorizo cut into chunks, half a savoy cabbage shredded, a handful of runner beans topped, tailed and cut into pieces, a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of cannelini beans, and cooked it for another half an hour.   We ate it in large soup bowls and it was delicious.

Now for two other 'pot au feu' type stories.

There is a large field opposite our house, to the South West(that means we are North East of the field).   Today there is a fairly sharp wind blowing from the South West and today also the farmer of that land has decided it is a good day to spread the slurry as he has finished his silaging for this year.  All our doors and windows are tight shut, but nothing can keep out the strong smell of slurry.   It's bad enough when it is our own farm slurry but somehow when it belongs to another farm, it is worse!

Now for a story about my morning's mail.   Three letters - all for me - all marked Private and Confidential and very important looking.
The first one was to tell me about the knitting and stitching show in Harrogate in November and to ask whether I would like advance tickets - surely hardly private or confidential (and I don't intend going anyway).   The second - in a very smart cream vellum envelope - was from some private finance firm to see if I would like them to manage my finances.  (no thanks).   The third, and most annoying, was from my bank outlining my affairs for the year in my Current Account.   I have been in the same bank since I was about twenty years old and have had good service from them.   I have had loans for a couple of cars over the years.   They tell me the average amount I have had in my current account over the last year (not far short of a thousand)  and the average debit balance over the last year (nil).  So far so good, but I read the small print and it says:
Current overdraft interest rates - (I have never overdrawn in my entire life) 19.9%.  Current credit interest rates - no credit interest is payable. 

Could someone please explain to me why the banks can get away with charging this high interest on anyone who overdraws and yet someone like me who always keeps well in credit, gets absolutely no interest on their money at all.  It does lead me to ask whether this is in any way connected with the large bonuses which seem to be paid to Bank folk with increasing regularity.

The whole mail this morning leads me also to ask - isn't this paper, which comes through my door every morning, just a terrible waste of trees?


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Are you happy?

Well, the philosopher would, I expect, ask you to define happiness.   But on the scale of one to ten which side do you fall on?
I ask this because there has been yet another survey done about Happiness and what makes us happy.   The results make familiar reading and bear no relation to my own list.
Folk say they need things like a dream home, plenty of money, a pet,  and other similar things.   Has this really got anything to do with happiness I ask?
Well, it certainly hasn't in my case and I wouldn't have thought I was the exception that proved the rule.   Maybe they just asked the wrong people or the wrong questions.
I sat and thought about what makes me happy, because make no mistake I am truly happy as I am thank you.   What makes it so?   A loving husband, a loving family, reasonable health, reasonable mobility, a gentle lifestyle, lots of lovely friends.
None of these are material things - but all are, in my book, the most important things in my life.
I asked the farmer last night what makes him happy and his list was more or less identical to mine.   I tried to come up with some material thing which would make me happier.   I suggested a bright pink two-seater low slung sports car might go part of the way - to which the farmer replied that I might be able to get into it but he was jolly sure I would never be able to get out of it.
Ah well, that's another bubble burst.

As I sit here the first load of straw for winter bedding has arrived and is being unloaded into the barn by the farmer and his friend and neighbour.   Needless to say, as every year, it has arrived on a windy day so that the drive and the lawns are covered in loose straw.  I hope it stays windy for a couple of days more so that it all blows away.


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Two old country sayings.

Two sticks across and a little bit of moss.

One of my father's old sayings.  It refers to the nest of pigeons - they are such scrappy nest-builders.   The same goes for collared doves too - they really weren't around in my father's day but now they are a real success story, and I can't really understand why.  They nest in the Scot's pines by our farmhouse and their nests are so flimsy and so high up in the trees that come the wind and the eggs (or even the nestlings) land up broken on the grass.  But this year they must have done really well.   In the Spring we had two pairs which we knew were nesting in the trees.   Now there are ten at the bird table each morning - we are of course assuming that six of them must be the offspring of the two pairs.   But whatever the reason, it is good to see such a lovely bird doing so well.

Red sky in the morning a shepherd's warning.

Today is the farmer's fortnightly walking day - an outing he really enjoys because as well as seeing our beautiful Yorkshire Dales he is also walking with friends who are  farmers and they can talk shop.  The weather forecast for today is dreadful - 'The first real storms of Autumn' said the weatherman last night, so we wondered what to expect this morning and whether the walk might be cancelled (they are a pretty hardy lot but don't usually set off if it is bad beforehand).  The sky at 6am was as angry as I have ever seen it; great black clouds and a deep, deep red as the sun came up.   It was very beautiful but it didn't augur a lovely day.  However, it is now eleven o'clock, he has gone, there is still no rain although the wind is strong and he has taken wet weather gear.   I do hope it holds off until later in the day, not just for his walk but also because today is The Great North Run - a half-marathon in Newcastle - which attracts top class runners from around the world, many of whom are running under sponsorship for various charities.

The chicken (corn fed and stuffed with apple, sage and onion stuffing) is in the oven. Once I have ordered my groceries on line after this blog that is me more or less done for a few hours and I can spend an hour with my feet up reading my Ian Rankin - might even get to the end and find out who dunnit.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

A Cooking experiment.

The poor farmer pales when he comes through the door and I tell him that today's lunch is an experiment.   But it would be boring to produce the same meals over and over again wouldn't it.

Well I made rather nice mushrooms on toast for tea the other night and the farmer pronounced it very nice - real praise from him as 'all right' is usually as far as it goes.  Thought I would pass the recipe on for you to try.   It is nothing earth shattering, but rather a nice combination of tastes.

Chop your mushrooms (field mushrooms if possible but otherwise any combination) up fairly small.  Pour some good olive oil into a pan and chop a couple of cloves of garlic small and gently cook for a couple of minutes in the olive oil.   Put the bread on to toast.  Put the mushrooms into the garlic/oil and cook quite quickly for three or four minutes.    Pile on to buttered toast and grate parmesan cheese over the top.Delicious.  Try it and report back,

Out for a Chinese meal with 'the girls' tonight.   Already looking forward to the battered prawns.

Friday, 13 September 2013

The next job on the farm.

Yesterday the farmer cleaned all the Summer machinery - the grass cutter, the baler, the bale sledge, the hay trailer - and put them away in the implement shed for another year.  That is a sure sign that Autumn is setting in.

So, what is the next job?   Well it has got to be getting the loose housing reading to receive the surplus cows from our neighbour over the Winter.  Our neighbour and friend, A, has a large milking herd of Holstein cattle and in the Summer he rents some of our fields for grazing.   In the Winter we house some of his dry cows and cows in calf in our purpose built loose housing, which we no longer use ourselves as we are semi-retired.

At present it is 'knee deep' in  manure from last Winter's cattle; it has been left in there to rot down over the Summer.   The cats love to lie in there because it has hotted up and so is always warm.   Also, swallows nest in the roof and appreciate a plentiful supply of insects.  But now is the time to empty the loose housing and pile the manure up into a heap in the field to rot down further before it is spread out on all the fields.   That operation depends upon the weather being fine so that the field is not wet when the heavy trailers of manure drive up and down it to the manure heap.   As it is a wet day today that means the job has to be put off. 

But that doesn't mean that the farmer is looking for a job - for there is one job which always needs doing from now until the Spring - keeping the wood pile topped up for the wood burning stove.   Luckily we had a large alder fall in the wood in the Spring and in various gales throughout the year branches have been pruned off apple, cherry, hawthorn, ash and alder trees - so there is plenty of wood for this winter and we still have some left from last year.   But once our wood burner is going all day it is surprising how quickly the pile goes down.

So as I write the farmer is busy topping up the supply of winter wood, the rain is still falling and there will be no chance of any work done in the fields this weekend.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Nuisance calls.

During the time it has taken me to switch my computer on, read my e mails and come to my blog site, I have had two nuisance calls.   One a recorded message saying 'This is an important announcement' - it never gets any further than that because I put the phone down; the other a foreign voice asking me how I am today - that is as far as he/she gets before I put the phone down.
I don't like to be rude and I know that people have to earn a living and that working in a call centre is one way of doing that, but here are a few reasons why I would rather they didn't call me:-

1.   I am deaf and have to remove my hearing aid in order to answer the phone.
2.   Quite often I am upstairs when the phone rings and we haven't' a phone upstairs, so I have to struggle downstairs (I have an arthritic knee and a bad ankle) to answer it.

3.   Worst of all - they always call at meal times.   We get most of our cold calls between 8.30 and 9 in the morning, 12 noon to 1pm at lunch time and 4pm to 5pm in the evening.  In fact, we have taken to not answering the phone at these times but waiting until it stops ringing and then listening to the answer phone.

We subscribe to the Telephone Preference Service but that doesn't seem to make any difference.   Is everybody troubled like we are and if so, what do we do about it?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Book recommendation.

There are some places, some cities, in the world that hold a magical fascination just in their names, and for me, one of those places is Kashgar.   So when I read (on someone's blog but I can't remember whose) ** about a book called 'A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar' I just had to have it. Popping over to Amazon (it is all too easy isn't it?) I found that it wasn't a travel book as I had thought, but a novel.  But the recommendation sounded good and the word Kashgar was still a draw for me.  I sent for it.

I have not been disappointed and can  thoroughly recommend it to you all.   The writer, Suzanne Joinson is herself widely travelled across the Middle East, North Africa, China and Europe and at present lives on the South Coast.

It is two stories in one really; part of it about two sisters who travel to China - en route for Kashgar which they never actually reach because of rebellion - with a strong minded missionary called Millicent in order to set up a Christian mission.   They are hated everywhere they go and treated with suspicion.   But en route they find a very young girl by the side of the road in the final pangs of child birth.   The girl dies and the writer of this part of the novel more or less adopts the child.  This makes them even more unpopular.   In her spare moments between cooking all the meals and caring for the baby the writer of The Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar begins to write about their life there.

Running alongside is the story of a present day young woman who herself seems adrift, who is confronted by a refugee from the middle east, who literally camps on her doorstep.  

These two stories run along together but gradually they collide as a surprising story about the past suddenly becomes part of the

Paul Torday, who wrote 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' calls it
'A haunting, original and beautifully written tale.'

Do try to get hold of a copy to read.   You won't be disappointed.
(£5.59 from Amazon)
**  It was on Pondside's blog - so thank you so much for that.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


Today friend W took me to her exercise class - exercise for ladies of a certain age that is.   We did an hour's gentle exercise, designed to keep us mobile and help our balance and I really enjoyed it.  I shall certainly continue to go as often as I can until I have the operation on my ankle - then, as I shall be on crutches for about two months, I shall still go along and do the upper body exercises.

Of course the side effect of this is that one meets a new group of people and this is always good - to extend one's circle.   In a small town like ours it just means that when you are walking round you meet even more people to say hello to, and I am all for that.

Now I have to do the exercises each day in order to get a bit more supple = today I was rather like a creaky old gate.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Anybody know what this is?

Every Autumn our wild roses in the hedgerows about the farm are covered in these tiny fuzzy balls.   When we were children we always called them 'Robins pincushions' and I know they are some kind of gall (a growth on the stem of a plant, which houses a parasite of some kind).   They are so pretty that it would be a shame if they housed some really nasty thing and did harm to the plant, but I can't think they do because each year we have a magnificent show of wild roses.  Can anyone enlighten me?   I shall now pop over to Stuart Dunlop's blog (Donegal Wildlife) as he is marvellous at identification and will surely provide an answer.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Contrary weather.

I suppose - all things being equal - I prefer a contrary climate to one which is absolutely predictable.   I wouldn't like it to be hot all the year round - the heat drives me crazy; and cold all the year round is equally bad.   Our friend and neighbour has just been to Canada for ten days for a wedding and it was so very hot - and so many mosquitoes - that he came home desperate for some temperate weather.   And yet that same place has heavy snow in Winter.

If I am honest, there is surely no more wonderful thing, weather wise, than a perfect Spring day here in the UK.   A day when the sun shines, the leaves are breaking on the trees, there is a gentle breeze,a smell of growth and the promise (even if it is not always fulfilled) of a pleasant Summer to come.

Autumn has arrived here in the Yorkshire Dales overnight.   We had a drop of twelve degrees from one day to the next, the Winter duvet has gone back on the bed, and last night the temperature was only four degrees.   Today it is ten - last week end it was twenty two.

And yet there is something lovely about Autumn too, isn't there?  The smell of dying leaves is not unpleasant, the smell of Autumn bonfires is lovely, the gathering of the wild crab apples, hazel nuts, blackberries and mushrooms makes us feel that we are getting something for nothing.   And we can put out of our minds the approaching Winter when it is only mid Seeptember, can't we?

Saltburn, which is near to where Denise (Mrs Nesbitt's space on my side bar) lives had a sudden flash flood on Friday when there was a gigantic down pour.   Cars were washed away, houses were flooded, debris, including whole trees, was washed down to the sea almost.

But this is what we get in a country where the weather is unpredictable.   Isn't it preferable to knowing that there will be three feet of snow, thick ice and temperatures of minus thirty (as there was in Almaty when I visited on holiday some years ago) every year?   Giant kindling stacks, triple glazing, huge wood burning stoves - but you still have to go out in it, don't you?

##Did anyone see the amazing Nigel Kennedy on Last Night of the Proms.   How marvellous to see and hear such a man who oozes musicality and genius on the one hand and yet takes all the stuffiness out of it by appearing in a tee shirt, with a cup of coffee in his hand.  Or would you rather he had stuck to the dress code?

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Meeting a fellow blogger

Today, morning aj and her partner K, have been to lunch.   We have blogged with one another for the last three years and have met once before when they came up North on holiday.   Today, as it was possible for them to return from their holiday via the Yorkshire Dales they called in and we had a pleasant two hour chat over a leisurely lunch.  It is good to meet fellow bloggers 'in the flesh' and we had a lovely time.

Here is a photograph of the two of us together, courtesy of the farmer.


Thursday, 5 September 2013

House of Easement.

I was just watching a programme about Hampton Court in which they said that Henry VIII built a servants' toilet there for 24 occupants, and called it 'the house of easement.'

It reminded me of the room in Pompeii, where there are stone benches with holes all the way round and where the elders of the place went in a morning both for 'easement' and also to discuss the affairs of the day.

When I was a child my Aunt Kate lived way out in the Dukeries in Nottinghamshire.   They had no water laid on to their house and the lavatory was right at the top of the garden - an awful long way to walk in the dark and in Winter.   It was an earth closet which my Uncle Frank used to keep well under control by throwing earth, cinders etc. at the back of the closet at least once a week in Winter and almost every day in Summer.   The seats, which my Aunt used to scrub until they were white, were made of wood and there were three holes in a row, so that the family could all visit together.

I have written before about the lavatory at our house - where my father had to empty the bucket once a week at the bottom of the garden (usually under the damson tree and we had a fantastic crop of damsons every year).

Now of course those days are past in this country at least and we all have 'water closets', up to date sanitation, a plethora of disinfectants etc.   In fact we have really gone over the top in our eagerness to eliminate germs in some ways I think.

But when I press the little button on top of our toilet cistern I sometimes think of those days, for like the washing and ironing, the cooking in a fire oven, the cleaning by beating carpets outside on a line and all the other jobs that took up a woman's whole life and usually made her old and arthritic long before her time, cleaning out toilets every weekend have become a thing of the past - and a good thing too.

Thank goodness I wasn't one of Henry;s servants - I have no desire to share a 'house of easement' with twenty three others.   Locks on doors is the order of the day for me at any rate, don't know about you.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Today's Writers' Meeting.

You probably know by now that I belong to our local writers' group, which meets in our local Quaker Meeting House on the first Wednesday in each month.   We are a nice group of around a dozen, but this being the holiday season there were only eight of us this morning.   It really is such a lovely group of like minded people - we have a theme, which we broadly speaking stick to, we read out our work and then we discuss it.   Today, as there we so few of us, we had plenty of time, and I must say that most of the discussion was about content rather than about technique.   But that made a change and we really had a most stimulating morning.

The subject which was the starting point for today's writing was to do something connected with Astrology and horoscopes.   The result was wide-ranging.   My particular favourites were a piece by L about hoarding treasures or clearing the decks  - it rang so many bells for me; and a piece by H, in which she researched 'The glorious first of June' (her birthday) - absolutely fascinating.

Here is my effort - part fact and part fiction.

I don't believe in Astrology.   Does anyone?   How could you possibly believe that the movement of the stars and planets across the night sky could exert an influence on peoples' lives, or on the characteristics of their personalities?   That sort of thing, along with Phrenology, surely belongs to an age when we really knew so very little about the workings of the scientific world.

And yet once, when I belonged to a so-called 'select' group of women, all of whom held positions of responsibility within an organisation, we were attending a meeting where, after the business, the subject of horoscopes came up.   I am a Scorpio - Scorpios are reputedly bossy, like to be in charge, like to be the one organising things.   There were twelve of us at the meeting and we found that eleven of us were Scorpios!

Did that change my attitude?   Well no, but I confess to reading my horoscope if I come across it in the newspaper.   But don't we all do that?

So when I read my horoscope on this particular morning and it said that something momentous was going to happen to me that day, I smiled and thought to myself, 'Yes, probably one of my Premium Bonds is going to come up.'

Of course, by the time I was ready to take my dog for his daily constitutional, I had completely forgotten about the whole thing.   We set off across the fields on our usual route.   It was a lovely day.   The sky was a beautiful blue with white puffy clouds.   There was a pleasant Autumn breeze blowing and it felt good to be alive.   I had been a widow for just two years and was as last beginning to feel 'normal' again.

The walk followed its usual pattern.   We walked on the footpath - the dog got well in front of me, then I would pass him and he would get well behind me.   But he always caught up.   He was a good dog and a great companion even if he did dash off after the occasional rabbit (he never caught one and would not have know what to do with it if he had.)

We were both enjoying ourselves; so much so that I didn't notice the approaching black clouds, nor did I hear the rumble of thunder until it got quite close.   In fact it was a flash of lightning that alerted me to an approaching storm.

I looked around.   I had no coat with me and no umbrella.   Just across the field was a barn and I realised that the best thing to do was to make for that and shelter inside until the storm had passed.

I just reached it as big heavy drops of rain began to fall.   I pulled open the door and shut it behind me  as the din of torrential rain rattled on the corrugated iron roof.   I was safe and dry.

It was then that I saw the bull.   Alright, he was in a pen so I was safe enough, but it was a bit of a shock.   Actually he took no notice of me whatsoever and carried on eating the hay in his rack, his back towards me.   Then someone spoke.   That did make me jump.

The farmer was standing inside the barn, also sheltering from the rain.  It was only as my eyes adjusted to the dim light that I saw him.   We had met many times on the footpath but suddenly we were face to face.

We chatted about the weather, about the bull, about farming in general.  But there was something about the meeting that was different, something that only struck me as I was walking home after the storm had passed.   I really liked this man.   I had really enjoyed our chat in the barn.

Two years later we were married and we have now been happily married for twenty years.   So yes, something momentous really did happen that day.

Oh, and by the way, although I don't believe in astrology, I do still read my horoscope.   And no, there wasn't a Premium Bond prize waiting for me when I got home that day.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Ashamed to show his face.

Alas, my Buff Orpington cockerel is moulting and a sorry sight he looks too.   He seems ashamed to show his face and spends almost all day inside the hen hut, refusing to come out and shepherd his 'girls' about as he usually does.

I managed to coax him out this afternoon when I took some scraps down for the hens and called them.   He couldn't resist popping out to see what was on offer but he looked so sad.

I really wanted to tell him that in a couple of weeks, when he gets his new feathers, he will be a more magnificent sight than ever.   He always seems a very proud chap who seems to sense just how beautiful he is.  Alas not now.   If you really want to make him feel ashamed of his looks, blow the picture up larger to see just how bad it is.

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Grass is Down.

All the grass is down - all seven fields.   The weather is sunny and windy and we are just hoping that it stays like this all week so that the farmer can arrange for a contractor to come in and bale up the grass and wrap it.    The pieces of machinery necessary for these operations mean that it is never worth us buying such equipment - it is far too costly - and it is much easier for us to get somebody in to do the job for us.

So tomorrow will be spent constantly shaking up the grass to let the air in and dry it thoroughly so that it will be ready for baling on Wednesday - weather permitting.   The next job is for the farmer to find a contractor to do it for him.   I am already worrying about him finding somebody (!!) but he is not going to bother looking until tomorrow morning.   Meanwhile he has gone off with a plastic bag to collect some rather large blackberries which were ripe in the hedge.   He has not taken Tess with him - there are now so many rabbits with myxamatosis in the fields that they are a hazard.   It is so upsetting to see these blind and almost dead rabbits stumbling about.   If the farmer sees one then he kills it quickly and humanely - but I am afraid I cannot do that - I turn away.   I am ashamed to admit it, but I really don't know how to go about killing a rabbit, so I have to leave it to suffer longer.   The people who introduced this cruel disease should have been made to suffer it themselves I sometimes think.   By all means shoot rabbits if and when they become a pest in the fields - but this suffering is never justified how ever big a pest they become.

As for the badger question - I stay on the sidelines I am afraid.  Again it is a case of not wishing to get involved.   I can see both sides of the problem - I don't think we should ever interfere with nature and try to upset the balance and I do appreciate how upsetting it is for farmers to lose cows - often one of which they are particularly fond.   They do have favourites you know.

Sunday, 1 September 2013


There are always decisions to be made on the farm.  These are made, of course, by the farmer and not by me.   I am grateful for that because I would find it far too worrying, whereas the farmer, who has been in the business more or less since he fell out of his cradle, takes it all in his stride with the remark, 'we have to take what comes.' (his favourite expression).

The decision at the moment is when to begin second crop silage making.   We always sell our first crop in-situ as we have not cattle of our own.  When it comes to second crop we make our own silage in order to feed the cattle we over-winter for our neighbour.

The grass has probably grown more or less as much as it will this year and it is time to cut.   So all is dependent upon the weather.   Today I think it is jolly cold - certainly Autumnal - and rather cloudy.   There is a strong South West wind blowing.   But, crucially, it is not raining and there is no rain forecast.   The barometer is high and it is set to get warmer again over the next day or two.   All things being equal we will be cutting our second crop grass tomorrow.   So keep your fingers crossed for fine weather for a day or two please.